Give me a break, celebrities.
When I was growing up, every year on my birthday I wished for the same thing when I blew out the candles on my cake: I wished my parents would get back together.
Never mind that I’d never even seen them in the same room together. (They split when I was two; I have no memory of them ever being together.) Never mind that I adored my stepmother and four step-siblings (two from my mother’s new marriage and two from my dad’s). The logistics of this wish being granted didn’t enter into my mind when I squeezed my eyes shut and blew out those candles year after year. I was well into my teen years before I came up with something new to wish for.
Mostly, I look back on my child self and think how silly I was, to wish for something that was not only impossible, but which would have certainly been miserable for all parties involved. But also, I now understand why I felt that way.
Being the kid of divorced parents sucks.
You can spin it lots of ways to make it seem more fun – two bedrooms! Two sets of Christmas presents! – but in the end, you’re still packing up your stuff and dragging it from one house to another on a schedule someone else dictates. When you’re with one parent, you miss the other. And two part-time homes don’t add up to one whole, familiar place where you feel like you belong, all of the time. Instead of feeling like I had two homes, I mostly felt like I didn’t have a home at all. I was always a guest in someone else’s house.
Maybe that’s why it annoys me so much when I read about couples divorcing and making a point of saying they’re still going to be “a family forever”, or claiming that splitting up is “just another phase” in their lives, so everyone can grow and learn and love each other better. Give me a break.
As a child of divorced parents, and as a divorced mother with two kids of my own (here are 10 things I learned from my failed marriage) I call BS.
Take Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, who famously ‘consciously uncoupled’ in 2014. In announcing their split, they wrote, ‘We are…and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been.’ They’ve gone on to take vacations together as a family, and Paltrow has said they even sleep at each other’s houses on a regular basis. (How does that go over with potential new girlfriends and boyfriends, I wonder?)
As Paltrow told Glamour magazine earlier this year, “The ideal is to stay married. But if you can’t stay married, wouldn’t the ideal be that you could still be a family and you could put aside your own stuff long enough to explore – what is this new family and who am I in it?”
Um, no. Sorry Gwyneth. The whole point of getting divorced is that you aren’t going to be a family anymore. You’re moving on, hoping to create something new that works better for everyone. Your family, as you once knew it, no longer exists.
I know that sounds harsh. But listen – divorce is harsh. For me, deciding to get divorced was a big deal. It wasn’t some touchy-feely, new agey quest to find myself or transport our family to a higher plane of existence.
After hearing about so many celebrity couples who are still supposed best friends who spend weekends together, and who’ve vowed to “always be a family” (besides Gwyneth and Chris, there are Seal and Heidi, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, and Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts, just to name a few), it’s almost a relief that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are splitting up for serious reasons, not putting on a show that they still think the world of each other.
As hard as it was for me to grow up with divorced parents, I never had any question about why my parents got divorced. Even though they tried to put a good face on it and not trash the other parent in front of me (though not always successfully), I was well aware that they hated each other.
So while I didn’t like having divorced parents, I knew there was a good reason they’d gotten divorced. If they’d ever tried to feed me some sort of line about them always loving each other, I’d have been furious. Why would they have chosen to make my life so difficult, if they still loved each other? To my mind, if they could have stood to take a vacation together, they could have sucked it up and stayed married. Likewise, if I’d thought my ex and I could have been friendly enough to enjoy spending a holiday together, I wouldn’t have left him.
I’ve never understood people who gush about their ex-spouses. “He’s the greatest guy in the world, the best dad ever,” I’ve heard people say. Really? Because if I thought my ex was the greatest guy in the world and the best dad ever, I guarantee you, I’d still be married to him. I spent plenty of time struggling over whether or not to stay in my marriage, mostly for the sake of my kids. Ultimately, I decided that staying was destructive to all of us.
And what’s more, my kids have often told me how glad they are that their dad and I got divorced. Because yeah, being a child of divorce sucks in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t suck as much as my marriage did. Which is why we’re not a family anymore – and we’re all better off that way.
Image via tumblr.com.
Comment: What experiences do you have being the child of divorced parents, or being a divorced parent yourself?